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Friday, August 09, 2019
Astronomers Agree to Access Maunakea Through Protest Camp
By News Release @ 11:22 PM :: 737 Views :: Hawaii County , Greenmail, Higher Education, OHA

News Release from Maunakea Observatories, August 9, 2019

The Maunakea Access Road remains blockaded. However, activists agreed, after the Emergency Proclamation was withdrawn, to allow all existing observatory employees, including astronomers, to access Maunakea using the Old Saddle Road and a section of unpaved lava. This route is unimproved and lined with tents, cars and people. However, pursuant to this agreement, on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 the state laid cinder and cones in an attempt to address safety concerns. The people blocking the road also agreed to allow larger vehicles to access Maunakea by going around the tent blockade. This means the vehicles will travel on the road’s shoulder.

The current process of gaining access to Maunakea requires the observatories to provide pre-arranged notification of all vehicles seeking access. To accomplish this, the people blocking the road will be provided a list of which vehicles are going up and when. This requires the observatories to contact the Office of Maunakea Management, which then contacts law enforcement, who then provides the list to the activists. The observatories are also aware that activists have been keeping a log of who goes up and down.

This arrangement — and the improvements made by the state to address safety concerns and ensure appropriate access for the observatories — constitutes progress. The observatories hope this process will allow them to return to as close to full operations as possible while the Maunakea Access Road remains blocked. However, the state, county and observatories remain committed to reopening the blocked Maunakea Access Road intersection to vehicular traffic so that access will be unimpeded and prior notification and/or approval by the protesters will no longer be necessary.

The Observatories plan to send regular day crews back to the summit to prepare the telescopes to resume operations. During the prolonged shutdown, some instruments and systems were disabled to protect the health of the technology, so the restart process will vary in complexity from telescope to telescope. The Observatories hope to resume scientific observations as soon as possible.

This four-week suspension has been the longest period of time in the five-decade history of Maunakea astronomy that all telescopes have been simultaneously offline. Observatory employees — technicians, astronomers, instrument scientists and engineers alike — eagerly anticipate a return to the daily work they love. The international community, of which these telescopes are a part, also eagerly awaits the return of their vital partner.

  *   *   *   *   *

“The Maunakea Observatories represent an invaluable sector for Hawai’i Island and our entire State – the economic impact, intellectual capital, educational resources and community support they provide is irreplaceable. The interim solution for access to the telescopes is a step forward but remains inadequate for the long term. The State remains committed to re-opening the Maunakea Access Road intersection as an immediate priority. The State stands behind the more than 500 employees’ efforts to bring the telescopes back online to begin astronomical observations again.” – Gov David Ige

  *   *   *   *   *

Coverage:

BIVN: The observatories appear to be accepting an offer that was previously on the table, but are calling it a temporary agreement, since the Mauna Kea Access Road is still closed.

SA: Observatories group, TMT protesters reach agreement to allow Mauna Kea workers access 

SA: Mauna Kea observatories to go back online

KITV: The longest shut down in the history of Mauna Kea astronomy

HNN: Friday’s announcement by the Maunakea Observatories, doesn’t clear Thirty Meter Telescope protesters from the Mauna Kea Access Road.

CB: Getting all the complex telescope instruments ready to work again could still take several weeks. 

HTH: Astronomers to resume observations atop Maunakea

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